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A Tete-A-Tete With Tribe MAG
Tribe is the best local band to come out of Boston in recent years. Another completely biased opinion of a writer for The 21st Century, right? Astonishingly enough, Tribe is an incredible band, not only in this writer's opinion, but also in the opinion of the thousands who participated in the annual Phoenix poll, voting them "Boston's Best Band." This author was given the golden opportunity of interviewing Janet, Terri, Greg, Dave, and Eric of Tribe.
One immediately notices this group is a very normal bunch of people. They're not your everyday stuck-up group that often comprise such bands. They're all very down-to-earth, as can be seen by what they say, where they live, and the people to whom they grant interviews.
A long, long time ago, Tribe had four members (three of whom are no longer around). There were two guys and two girls, Dave being the only member of the original crew. "It was more of a social gathering than a serious band," says Terri, about Tribe's humble beginnings. However, things began to be more serious, and soon, after sifting through hundreds of Phoenix ads, a six-person group was formed (five present members, and one more). Unfortunately a conflict arose concerning goals and commitment. "During that time, we got nothing accomplished," recalls Terri, "I vividly remember going down into the basement [Tribe's mini-studio and practice room] and arguing for two hours, while getting a half-hour's work done." It was a stressful and trying period for the band. "It was the closest we've ever come to breaking up," admits Janet. Fortunately, after a tense two-week period, the band was pared down to five members in late 1985, and then, in Terri's words, "Things just sort of jelled."
Tribe is made up of five different and unique people. On lead vocals is Janet LaValley. Janet was raised in upstate New York, listening to "all sorts of rock and metal. I listened to a lot of folk, too, since I wanted to be a singer." After attending Plattsburg High School, Janet went to Brandeis University and received a B.A. in Philosophy.
Terri Barous is entrusted with Tribe's keyboards, and also sings. Terri enjoys listening to such groups as the Cocteau Twins, and is one of the band's "long haul musicians. I grew up taking classical piano lessons, because that was always the right thing to do. Until college, I never had any friends that were really into rock, so I was never exposed to any popular music. I remember I always had a fantasy about becoming a rock star, but I never had anybody to discuss it with," comments Terri about her start in music. Terri went to school in Ipswich, and then attended Bucknell University to further her studies in music, and eventually became a college music professor.
Eric Brosius is another of the band's "long haul musicians." Eric is responsible for cranking out the band's prominent guitar sound. "I started taking lessons early, and I switched around on instruments a lot," says Eric of his music career. Dave adds, "It was the only way he could think of to get chicks!" Eric grew up in Pennsylvania, and continued his education in music at the Berklee College of Music.
Greg LoPiccolo is Tribe's bassist. Greg didn't get started in music until he took an electronic music course in college. Upon finishing his four years at Mt. Anthony Union High School in Vermont, Greg "wanted to get out of the country. So I went to Germany. My original major was Pre-Med, but after taking a semester of chemistry, I decided to drop the idea of becoming a doctor. I still wanted to stay in Germany, so I worked towards a Bachelor's Degree in German Literature." Greg received his degree from Wesleyan University.
David Penzo hammers out the band's steady, soul-wrenching beat on the drums. Dave admits, "Back when I had time to do stuff other than practicing or playing, I liked to hack." Dave professes his love for U2, and admits he takes some of his drumming style from that band. David, like Terri, grew up in Massachusetts. He went to North Quincy High School, and attended Bridgewater State.
Although the individual members come from very diverse backgrounds, Tribe has become one unit. There are certain days when they are forced to become business partners, but more often than not, Janet, Terri, Greg, Dave, and Eric are a group of intimate friends who just hang out. As with any intimate group, the members of Tribe have many common interests. One focal point of Tribe's attention is the giant entertainment system that sits in the living room. On the huge 47-inch television (with six speakers placed strategically around the room), the members of the band "like to rent movies, watch them, memorize the lines, and then recite them to each other." Their favorite TV show is "The Simpsons," which they never miss. Besides doing lots of things as an integral whole, the members of Tribe have personal interests, such as skiing and reading.
"Here at the Home," a phenomenal creative outpouring by Tribe, is the group's first widely acclaimed album. Before this CD-only release, Tribe had made a few vinyl singles, and EP's. Practically every song on the album has its own unique punch. Many sound very personal, and Terri admits there is some degree of truth to every one. "I'm not saying that they all happened word for word, but nothing is totally made up," reveals Terri about such songs as "Daddy's Home." About the personal nature of the songs, Greg says, "A lot of times, the best songs are that way. If it cuts close enough to home to make you feel uncomfortable, if it makes the musician reel back, maybe it comes across to other people that way, too."
Most of the conflicts that occurred before late 1985 have now been resolved. The biggest hurdle was finding some sort of group stability. Even after the six person band was trimmed to five, the group had not yet begun to function as a team. "In the beginning," reminisces Dave, "it was a big adventure every night. Like AAre we gonna make it through the gig?' or AHow does this song start?' and so on, but now I think we've come to a level of stability." Another bridge to traverse was to find a name for the band. "Tribe" was thought up during the time of the six-person band. After many unsuccessful months of trying to decide on a name, the band members decided to take a methodical approach to the selection. Each of the six people wrote their top five names on a piece of paper. Then a vote was taken among the top five choice. Besides "Tribe," such names as "Paperfinger," "Black Knight," and "Prague Springs" made the final vote. "Tribe was chosen because it was the name we all hated the least," remembers Terri.
The Tribe sound is one of the more distinguishable in the music field today. They have deviated from the course of synth-pop bands, and teeter on the edge of having a hard, metal sound. Tribe's music style, self-named as "pretentious gloom rock" or "atmospheric rock," has attracted much acclaim over recent months. Tribe was named "Boston's Best Band," and Janet took "Boston's Best Female Vocalist" honors from the Boston Phoenix. Even with increasing amounts of overdue recognition in the Boston area, Tribe has its sights set on becoming a good international band. With their spirit, devotion, and vivaciousness, this doesn't seem a very far-fetched goal.n